What Can We Expect in Education From Donald Trump?

Wondering what Trump's position is on various education issues? You are not alone. Trump has made a variety of comments on what he would like to change in US education—yet often without specific detail. 

The GOP currently controls both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Some of Trump's ideas are similar to those that have been promoted within the GOP for years, while other ideas are unique to Trump. 

Trump's philosophy towards improving education seems to center around a free-market business approach. This approach attempts to remove barriers to innovation and encourage competition in order to stimulate new approaches while meeting the needs of "customers," or in this case, school children and families. 

Opposition to these ideas centers around making sure that the rights and needs of all students are met. Many education laws center around guaranteeing rights and educational access to all school children. Rights advocates are concerned that efforts to remove barriers directly translates into rolling back the very laws that protect marginalized students and guarantee access to public education to all children.

The rest of this article is going to cover what Trump has indicated he would like to do in his educational reforms—and what that might look like at your local school level. 

Trump Plans to Give Federal Dollars for School Choice

Legal scale weighing school books and money.
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During his campaign, Trump's website said that he would like to put an additional $20 million towards school choice programs.  His website states that he would like to:

"Give states the option to allow these funds to follow the student to the public or private school they attend. Distribution of this grant will favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools, and charter laws, encouraging them to participate."

In Trump's First One Hundred Days Plan, he says school choice funds would also be applicable for religious and homeschool.

Trump's campaign website stated a goal of school choice being offered to every US child living in poverty.

Trump may find favor with the senate, as U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed favor for school choice programs. McConnell even voted in favor of DC area school vouchers in 1997.

If Trump succeeds in this plan, expect to see an increase in charter and magnet schools, especially in high-poverty areas. This could also bring a boost to online public schools.  

Trump's plan could provide more money per pupil to states with more choice options. We could expect fierce competition between schools to entice us to enroll our children in a particular school. Parents will need to become savvy about investigating schools before making a choice.

What Parents Need to Know: Different states have different laws governing schools of choice. Not all states hold charter, magnet and other schools to the same standards as traditional public schools. Private schools have even less regulation. 

Reduced regulation could lead to less quality control and access for students with disability or other challenges. Parents should stay informed of education policies being developed at federal and state level. It will be important for parents to advocate for their children's needs so that policies are developed that truly increase educational access, rather than allowing low-quality options to ​exist.

Trump Plans to Put an End to Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

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CCSS has been a controversial issue in the last few years. One of the factors driving the controversy is what role states have compared to the federal government in deciding what schools teach. Trump supports increasing state control while reducing the role of the federal government.

Trumps has said that the same act that he would create school choice funds would also contain language that "...Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities.", according to Trump's First One Hundred Days Plan.

Putting an end to CCSS may prove difficult for Trump. CCSS has been adopted by individual states, making CCSS state law, not federal. States were not required to adopt CCSS, although they were encouraged to adopt CCSS or similar standards to be favorited for receiving Race To The Top funds.

It is unlikely standards will be going away anytime soon. Teachers across the nation are pretty far along in the CCSS implementation process. We don't know at this point how Trump's administration would propose to hold schools to high standards.

What Parents Need to Know: Parents will want to stay involved to watch that their children are being taught a rigorous curriculum, regardless of what it is called. It will be important for all children in every state to receive a comparable challenging education.

A Shrinking or Disappearing of the U.S. Department of Education

Vanished man with glasses and suit still visible.
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Trump has made different comments at different times regarding specifically what he would do with Department of Education. What he is consistent on is that the Department of Education would play a reduced role.  

In a Fox News Sunday Interview Trump said he would "consider cutting education department entirely."

Mr. Trump has appointed Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education. DeVos is a philanthropist known for promoting school choice options. During Devos' confirmation hearing she appeared to be unfamiliar with education disability right's laws, such as IDEA. She also avoided answering questions about how she would maintain standards, accountability and access for all students. 

Both eliminating the Department of Education or reducing it align with Trump's desire to shift greater control over education to states. Appointing DeVos to head the department of education is consistent with the desire to reduce the role of the federal government in education. DeVos' philosophy on school choice appears to be based largely on reducing oversight.

Trump would not be the first Republican president to suggest eliminating the Department of Education. Ronald Reagan also planned to eliminate the Department of Education, which was created by the previous president, Jimmy Carter. Reagan planned to return to the federal Office of Education - giving up some federal control over schools.

Reagan changed his position when the landmark government report "A Nation At Risk" expressed strong concern over US school performance compared to other nation's schools.

Reducing the federal government's role in overseeing education is intended to reduce regulation and allow for more innovation. 

What Parents Need to Know: Historically, the US public education system was founded at local levels. Many states and local areas already have laws that are the same or similar to federal laws. Be aware that any changes at the federal level may or may not affect your local area. 

For example, on Feb. 22, 2017, the Trump administration withdrew federal level policies protecting transgender students to use facilities that correspond with the gender the student identifies. The rescinded policy was created from standard best practices used in many schools across the nation.

In other words, many schools already had this policy in place before the federal policy was created. These areas still have the policy, and still offer protections to transgender students using facilities that match their gender identity,

It is only in the areas that had not adopted such a policy at the local level that are now without these policies.

This is an example of how rolling back a federal policy can affect local areas. Areas that do not have a similar policy in place will need to decide what policies are best for their communities.

Trump Hopes to Increase Access to College and Vocational School

College students walking on campus.
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Trump says on both his website and in his First Hundred Days Plan that he wants to make college and vocational school more affordable and easier to access.

Trump' has made critical remarks that colleges and universities spend too much money on administration, or simply not spending it all and keeping it in investment funds. His website says that he would "Work with Congress on reforms to ensure universities are making a good faith effort to reduce the cost of college and student debt in exchange for the federal tax breaks and tax dollars."

How does Trump plan to do that? At the time this article is being written, it's hard to say. While there are several websites and news articles online right now that claim to have Trump's ideas for holding them accountable, most of these articles have been filled in with small comments from aides and known positions of GOP leaders -little comes directly from Trump.

One quote from Trump himself came from a rally in Roanoke, VA

"...Universities get massive federal funds and huge tax breaks from their endowments, but then they don't spend these funds on their students. I will work with congress to make sure that those funds are not available, unless universities begin to reduce tuition and student debt..."

Trump seems to be calling for increased federal oversight of university and college budgets, along with taking steps to make sure that students who graduate will be able to make payments on any school loans.

If Trump implements this idea based only on what he has actually said so far, not much is likely to change. Skyrocketing tuition costs are primarily due to a drop in state funding. The reduced state funding has led many universities to tighten their belts already.

What Parents Need to Know: We may expect to hear more from colleges about exactly how they use endowment funds to specifically help students.

Trump and Student Loans

Keyboard with student loan buttons
Peter Dazeley via Getty Images

Don't jump to any conclusions about college debt and Trump's comments about the Department of Education.

The federal Department of Education distributes Federal financial aid such as pell grants, work-study funds, and federal student loans to college students. While Trump has said that he may get rid of or reduce the department, his comments were said in the context of the federal government's role in k-12 education, not student loans. 

Trump discussed an affordable student loan plan in Columbus, OH on October 2016, saying " We would cap repayment for an affordable portion of a borrower's income. Twelve point five percent cap and, that gives you a lot to play with a lot to do and as borrowers work hard and make their full payments for fifteen years."

This sounds very similar to the income-based repayment plans from Obama administration. Trump's plan would reduce the number of years from 20 to 15, while the percentage increases from 10 percent to 12.5 percent. Based only on what Trump has said so far, this may slightly increase income-based payments, but loans would be forgiven faster.

So What Is The Bottom Line for Parents and Families?

Trump has indicated that he would like to reduce the federal government's role in education, give more power to states, and has hinted at offering more to private schools in the form of vouchers. 

The key theme is that control of education will shift even further towards state and local areas. This local freedom comes with the responsibility of ensuring quality education for all.

It will be important for parents to stay aware of how changes being made at the federal level affect their local schools. Parents may want to take on a greater role advocating for their children's education.

Sources:

Delreal, Jose, and John Wagner. "Trump Tests New Message on College Affordability, a Key Issue for Clinton." Washington Post Post Politics. Washington Post, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 9 Nov. 2016.

"Donald Trump Talks Taxes, Trade, 9/11 and Why He Takes Personal Shots at Political Rivals." Fox News. FOX News Network, 18 Oct. 2015. Web. 9 Nov. 2016.

"Education." Make America Great Again! Donald J. Trump For President, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

"Education Insider." MAY 2016: ASSESSMENT TRENDS, HIGHER 
EDUCATION, AND THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS. Whiteboard Advisors, May 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

"Here Is What Donald Trump Wants to Do In His First Hundred Days." NPR.org. National Public Radio, 9 Nov. 2016. Web. 9 Nov. 2016.

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